Revolution Disguised as Horror | “Worlock” by Skinny Puppy

Revolution Disguised as Horror | “Worlock” by Skinny Puppy

Shay Gale, Writer/Volunteer

The ‘80s were a wild time. While the general population was worried about the looming shadow of the nuclear arms race, the more musically inclined individuals of the decade were working these fears into their art. Songs like “Forever Young” by Alphaville and “London Calling” by The Clash hid existential lyrics behind a veil of catchy, Billboard-topping instrumentals and vocals. 

Meanwhile, just out of the view of the mainstream, a new genre of music began to creep into existence. Combining the layered, fast-paced sound of the German electronic scene with the overbearing, noisy sounds of European industrial, electro-industrial was born. At the helm of this emerging genre was Nivek Ogre and his band Skinny Puppy, a terrifying mixture of aggressive beats, spot-on sampling and gut-wrenching vocals. In 1989, Skinny Puppy would release Rabies, a final dark warning for the end of the decade. 

Steeped in controversy from its very conception, Rabies would receive mixed reviews from critics and fans alike. Some saw it as a high point for the band, specifically thanks to Ministry’s lead singer and industrial icon Al Jorgunsen stepping in as producer, while others saw it as simply a mediocre transition album. However, one point in which everyone seemed to agree was that the album contained the band’s magnum opus: “Worlock.”

Starting with the cinematic rise of the band’s signature synth sound and a sample simply saying, “Now is the only thing that’s real,” Ogre’s guttural vocals quickly take over, hissing lyrics that invoke disgusting and morbid imagery.

Binge cringe on the fringe /

Sloppy mincing eye dropping /

Biopsy cyclops overlooks /

Optic options /

Rotten showstopper skinpopper.”

A pounding synth enters the fray, allowing an almost tribal beat to build up behind Ogre’s voice. Things continue on as they are for what feels like only a brief moment until the singer’s voice rises to meet the screech of a synth, ushering in the song’s chorus with lyrics that call for change, despite the horror and bloodshed it may bring along with it. All throughout, Ogre’s voice begins to become increasingly computerized, turning into an almost electronic cry for help as the synth and beat begin to pulsate to overwhelming levels.

“Wasted views /

That’s all they see blue /

Hot blood guilt /

Optic nerve /

With the right attitude /

You will succeed blue /

Self abusive recluse /

Too late for me /

Make shifting peace /

Unsettling crazy /

doing crazy things /

Keep your eyes open

Soft spoken changes nothing /

A view so cruel /

A few.”

Suddenly, the listener is jolted back to the familiar sound found pre-chorus, with the rhythmic percussion once again riding alongside Ogre’s screeching vocals, now inspiring a greater sense of urgency with rising tension so thick that you could cut through it with a knife. Without any warning, the vocals of the singer are gone, replaced with a harrowing sample of Charles Manson singing “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles.

“(Do you, don’t you want me to make you? /

Coming down fast but don’t let me break you /

Only tell me tell me the answer /

You may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer)”

The chorus of the song bursts back onto the center stage, with a change in lyrics mocking the seemingly hopeless struggle of humanity. However, the mockery evident in the first lines of the chorus is just that — mockery. An uncharacteristically hopeful set of lyrics scream over the end of the altered chorus, highlighting the fact that pursuit of a better future is not in vain, but is limited by those whose ‘eyes are not yet open’ to the truth; that “Soft-spoken changes nothing.”

“Wasted truth /

Why call it all, blue? /

Hot lines, eventual decline /

With the right attitude you will succeed, blue /

Present that discontent /

Sidestep /

Define the state of things so far /

Crazy things, soft spoken, override /

With your eyes open, you know soft spoken changes nothing /

A view so cruel.”

The lyrics “a view so cruel” echo for what seems like an eternity, all the while a mounting wall of noise builds in the background. Finally, in what I consider one of the best song climaxes of all time, bits and pieces of lyrics from the rest song are Frankenstein-ed together to create a frantic echo that rides over a tidal wave of rising synth, animalistic  snarling, and ruthless instrumentals that stir up the feeling that time is indeed running out. 

“Try and take over, over the fringe /

Sloppy, eyesore, rotten, showstopper, skinpopper /

A babbler and dabbler /

Oh, change, change! /

Nothing /

Nothing, so, no, nothing /

Go, down /


Finally, the song comes to a tranquil state. Ogre’s anguished cries are silenced alongside the powerful industrial noise that carried the song, allowing the synth time alone to bring the listener back to reality. The final line of the song is the same sample that opened. However, with no hypnotic, angrily thumping beats behind it, the message seems much different, one might even say hopeful: “Now is the only thing that’s real.”